Sunday, November 1, 2009

Favorite Hideaways

For this month's installment of the photo series, here are some images of my favorite small town nooks and crannies scattered around the continent.

5. Eze, France

Eze is like nothing I've ever seen. It's less of a village than it is an enormous, rambling castle carved into a cliff overlooking the Mediterranean. Shops are carved into nooks wherever they can fit, and the paths that serve as roads roam here and there, up and down stairs, through archways. It is, however, rather two-dimensional. You see it, it's beautiful, but then there's nothing to do. Except take the bus to Monaco or Nice, of course.

4. Colmar, France

The fairy-tale capital of half-timbered buildings, leaning walls, low beams, and narrow lanes. Despite its tiny size, it reputedly has a notable art gallery (which we didn't visit... the scenery was enough for us) and is in a region full of cool stuff to do (Strasbourg, Haut-Koensigsburg, monkey feeding, etc.).

3. Hohenschwangau, Germany

Sandwiched between two castles (including possibly the most famous one of them all, Neuschwanstein), Hohenschwangau is tough to beat. Even without them, though, this little hamlet nestles between craggy mountains, a beautiful gorge, two lakes, and thick, Bavarian forest.

2. Hallstatt, Austria

A very close second: this snowglobe of a town is wedged between a steep mountain (we never saw the top through the mist) and a flat, still lake. When you get bored of being dazzled by the town and the food, there are caves, mines, and the lake to explore.

1. Vernazza, Italy

The last word in slowing one's heart rate. I could stay here for weeks and it would probably still feel like a few minutes. Just big enough to provide modern conveniences (train station, post office, interesting shops) but small enough to immediately comprehend (one main street, a few winding narrow streets) and completely without that annoying 20th century phenomenon known as the car, Vernazza is stunning. No matter how much of the world I see in my life, it's hard to imagine this ever not being one of my favorite places on it.

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